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13 Jun 2003 : Column 1096W—continued

Tourism (Staffordshire)

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) in what ways her Department has supported the Staffordshire tourism industry; [119235]

Dr. Howells: As part of the Government's programme of tourism reform, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are, from 1 April 2003, playing a stronger part in the strategic leadership of tourism, with the Regional Tourist Boards (RIBs) being their natural delivery partners. Guidance has been issued to RDAs on how tourism should be covered in their Corporate Plans and Regional Economic Strategies, including the development with RIBs, sub-regional and local partners of Regional Sustainable Tourism Strategies. 'Advantage West Midlands' (RDA) will lead this process in the West Midlands, taking into account the tourism potential of Staffordshire, and in 2003–04 will receive £252,000 to pass on to the 'Visit Heart of England Tourist Board, (VHOE) subject to agreed targets and objectives.

In addition 'Advantage West Midlands' recently provided South Staffordshire with resources to commission a study of the area's visitor profile. The

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study will include an action plan, which will guide future investment in tourism development in the area. A similar process is also occurring in North Staffordshire.

The Government has invested some £72 million in 2002–03, and is spending a further £50 million this year, on tourism, including £47 million to VisitBritain to encourage people in Britain and abroad to take their holiday here. I am sure that VisitBritain's campaigns, such as 'Outdoor Britain' which leads on the Peak District National Park, will, alongside the good work done by Visit Heart of England Tourist Board, be of enormous benefit to tourism in Staffordshire.

Government support for tourism is not limited to supporting a tourist board. DCMS alone spends some £1 billion per year, for example, on the arts, royal parks and palaces, museums and galleries, much of which directly benefits tourism.



Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what the total UK expenditure has been on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. [118703]

Hilary Benn: DFID has spent £122 million on reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan since 2001.

Agricultural Subsidies

Mr. Caton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what assessment the Department has made of the impact of reducing agricultural subsidies in Europe on nations in the developing world. [119190]

Hilary Benn: DFID have commissioned a number of studies looking at the impact of different aspects of agricultural liberalisation by developed countries. Some studies have analysed the effect of reforming certain commodity market regimes in the EU, such as the sugar and dairy regimes. These have shown that reducing support in the EU for these commodities will have a positive impact on world prices, thus benefiting exporting developing countries. It will also lead to reduced dumping on developing country markets which is currently harming local production and trade. But there will also be losers as some countries may see their highly profitable preferential access to the EU market eroded.

A recent study on wider liberalisation in agriculture by all developed countries shows similar results. It also stresses the need for complementary policies in helping developing countries reap the full benefits of agricultural trade. Support will need to be provided to those who lose their preferential access to EU markets in order to identify alternative market opportunities. This will need to be taken carefully into consideration within individual countries' development strategies.

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DFID is also in the process of commissioning a long-term study over three years to look into the effects of developed countries' domestic and export subsidies on developing countries. This will look in detail at specific country and commodity case studies.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if she will list the actions her Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are taking to comply with the requirements of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; whether she has made an estimate of the cost of compliance; and if she will make a statement. [117701]

Hilary Benn: All three of our UK buildings have been refurbished over the last two years. Formal surveys of each were carried out as part of these works, and in each case has confirmed that there is no asbestos present. There were no additional costs incurred as a result of the regulations.

There are no agencies or NDPBs for which this Department is responsible.

Departmental Website

Dr. Cable: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what actions she has taken or is taking to ensure that the websites of her Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are accessible to partially sighted and blind people; and if he will make a statement. [117354]

Hilary Benn: Specific consideration has been given to visually impaired users of the DFID website through the use of clear fonts and distinguishing colours. Overall the site is graphics/image light with the majority of the information on the website in text format, which can be easily manipulated through Screen reader software.

Our site is under redevelopment, which will involve loser compliance with W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and consultations with external organisations such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

G8 Summit

Bob Spink: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the international development issues discussed at the G8 Summit. [118995]

Hilary Benn: The G8 met in Evian on 1–3 June and discussed a number of issues relating to international development:

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Biometric Testing

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce biometric tests with (a) passport applications and (b) other official documents. [118116]

Beverley Hughes: As indicated in its 2003–08 Corporate and Business Plan the UK Passport Service (UKPS) is planning to include a computer chip in British passports storing a facial recognition biometric captured from photographs submitted with applications. This form of biometric deployment will be in line with international standards endorsed in May 2003 by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Studies are also planned by the UKPS and DVLA into the use of fingerprints and iris scan biometrics. These studies will include trials of live capture of the biometric at personal interviews, which will be required, if these forms of biometric are deployed. Finger prints or iris scans could be included in passports, passport cards along side facial recognition and in driving licences.


Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further milestones remain in the process which could lead to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis; when the final decision will be made; and when he expects that medicinal cannabis could be made available in the UK. [117882]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), an agency of the Department of Health, is currently evaluating the safety, quality and effectiveness of a medical preparation of a cannabis-based drug developed and extensively tested by GW Pharmaceuticals. This assessment by the MHRA is one which all prospective new medicines have to go through and is designed to protect public health.

Concurrently, in consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the Government is considering how the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 would apply to prescribed cannabis-based medicine in the event that the MHRA approves the safety, quality and effectiveness of the product.

If marketing approval is forthcoming, we will seek Parliament's agreement to any necessary changes to the Regulations. Our aim is to ensure ready and early

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availability of the drug as a prescribed medicine once marketing approval has been received. It is a possibility this could be done by the end of the year.

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